As the adage goes, "everyone loves a bargain." After all, what’s not to love about saving money? But sometimes that great deal isn’t so great after all. Take plastic surgery, for example. While patients may think they are being smart consumers by calling around to find the best price, that can easily backfire. Dr. Ryan Mitchell of Henderson, Nevada, explains why.
"The problem with doctor-shopping for plastic surgeons is that the fee you pay is based on the doctor’s skill," he says. "It’s not like getting a good deal on a toaster. You’re not getting an identical product for less by going with the lowest price."
According to Mitchell, some of the things that factor into the fee for procedures also include the doctor’s insurance, memberships to professional accreditation organizations, continuing education, staff, and fees for equipment, tools and surgical facilities.
"All of these costs add up, but generally speaking the more you pay, the higher level of skill your surgeon should have, and the better experience you can expect," Mitchell says.
Patients who bargain shop also run the risk of encountering a growing problem in the cosmetic surgery field: unqualified or underqualified people offering services for deep discounts. The problem with this, according to Mitchell, is that without adequate medical training, these so-called bargain practitioners could be putting your health, or even your life, at risk, as was the case with a Baton Rouge, Louisiana, woman named Kizzy London, who died after receiving a fat graft procedure from an underqualified practitioner in Miami, Florida.
"In the London case, she received her procedure with a licensed family doctor," Mitchell says. "This was a doctor who was licensed to practice medicine, but he wasn’t board certified to practice plastic surgery. That’s the danger you run into with underqualified doctors and cosmetologists giving Botox and giving fat grafts. A medical license doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing."
According to Mitchell, the No. 1 thing patients should be looking for when they consider a surgeon is board certification. Board certification is proof that a practitioner has mastered the basic concepts of their chosen field and is qualified to perform those procedures on patients.
"Without that board certification, you’re sort of flying in blind," he says. "Even a portfolio doesn’t mean a lot without that certification. Pictures can be stolen from other surgeons."
Mitchell recommends patients considering using a surgeon check for board certification before scheduling a procedure, and don’t be shy about verifying it with the accrediting board. After all, that’s what they’re there for.
"By all means, choose a surgeon who can do the work you want at a price you can afford, but do your due diligence and make sure they’re who they say they are," he says.